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It certainly can’t be for strategic reasons. Pinsents partners have been quite open about the fact that they need a bigger London base. Hence last year’s merger talks with Nicholson Graham & Jones (NGJ), which foundered after a few months. But the NGJ deal had a lot more logic than this one, not least because it had the virtue of simplicity.
NGJ and Masons may both be slightly unfashionable, but they are solid practices. Nevertheless, they operate entirely different business models. In fact, they’re such radically different merger targets that you can’t help wondering whether Pinsents’ management knows where it wants its firm to be.
At a time when aping DLA or Addleshaws (strong in the regions, aggressive move into the City) has the best chance of success for national firms, Pinsents wants to be Eversheds-lite – and this at a time when even Eversheds insiders admit they have to streamline their national practice.
Pinsents has barely made any progress in Manchester, the merger with Biddle in London was cosmetic, and it’s no longer the dominant firm in its Leeds and Birmingham heartlands.
But here it is, about to add new offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Bristol, as well as taking on the Leeds, Manchester and London operations of Masons. Piling on all this extra baggage will work if a management team has zest and drive, but there’s no evidence of that at Pinsents.
Frankly, it’s a lazy move. It is merger as a substitute for leadership. Pinsents partners should be demanding that their management start delivering real value to the business. There’s got to be a easier way of getting the biscuits than this.